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The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America
Columbus School of Law
3600 John McCormack Rd, NE
Washington, DC 20064

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Kiva K. Zytnick
Associate Director, Pro Bono Program & Public Interest Law
The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law 
3600 John McCormack Road, NE
Washington, DC 20064
[email protected]


Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator


Description of Programs

The Pro Bono Program presents students with experiential learning opportunities throughout their tenure at CUA Law. Students are also welcome to find their own pro bono opportunities, as long as they fit within programmatic requirements. To qualify as pro bono, the work must be law-related, supervised by an attorney, performed for no academic credit or compensation, and done on behalf of the underserved or nonprofit, civic, community, religious or governmental organizations seeking to promote access to justice. Participation is voluntary through our Pro Bono Challenge, whereby participants pledge to complete varying levels (50/100/150+ hours) of pro bono service during their three or four years of law school.


Location of Programs

The program is housed in the Office of Career and Professional Development but is also closely aligned with the law school's Office of Law and Social Justice Initiatives.



The Pro Bono Program at CUA Law is run by one part-time (80%) Associate Director who reports directly to the Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development and then to the Dean. 



The Pro Bono Program at CUA Law is funded out of the Office of Career and Professional Development budget.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Street Law  - Street Law students educate local high school students regarding various aspects of the law, including constitutional law, criminal law, juvenile torts, and more. It also organizes, coaches, and hosts a high school mock trial competition every year.


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy, but the law school from time to time conducts a survey of the faculty to gather information about pro bono service. Many faculty members participate in pro bono in different contexts, including direct representation of individuals and non-profit organizations, service on boards of non-profit organizations, and leadership roles within the bar.



All students who have participated in pro bono are recognized at an annual spring Pro Bono Reception. Additionally, students who complete the Pro Bono Challenge at the following levels are recognized at graduation with a certificate from the dean and a notation in the graduation bulletin:

  • 50 hours (Pro Bono Service Honors)
  • 100 hours (Pro Bono Service High Honors)
  • 150+ hours (Pro Bono Service Highest Honors)

The graduating students who have "honored the highest ideals of CUA Law by voluntary pro bono service to others" receive the Michael F. Curtin Pro Bono Award at graduation from both the day and evening divisions.


Community Service

Community service is encouraged at CUA Law throughout a student's tenure here. Examples of school-wide activities include a Service Day during first-year orientation that places students on projects at various Brookland-area organizations, and an MLK Day of Service that places hundreds of volunteers from all of CUA's schools around the DC area. The law school offers an annual Faith in Action series that provides an opportunity for students to explore the connections between faith, justice and service with classmates, exchange ideas with guest participants, and participate in service initiatives in the local community. Additionally, every student organization must participate in one community service project during the school year in order to receive funding from the Student Bar Association.


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Kiva K. Zytnick
Associate Director, Pro Bono Program & Public Interest Law
Office of Career and Professional Development
(202) 319-6149
[email protected]


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

The Law and Public Policy Program is a certificate program that offers academic enrichment and professional development for students interested in public interest law, government and politics. About fifteen students are admitted to the program from each class. To complete the certificate, each student must complete a series of seminars and clinical or externship experiences. The LPP program offers a cohesive subcommunity for some of the most idealistic and service-oriented students at the law school. Many LPP students have experience in the Peace Corps, Americorps, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, or other significant prior service experience. Their interests are diverse, but the program produces a regular stream of legal services lawyers, public defenders, prosecutors, child advocates, and others who focus on homelessness, education law, or human rights. Information about the program is available on the law school website.


Public Interest Centers


Public Interest Clinics

Families and the Law Clinic:  In the Families and the Law Clinic (FALC) students take on cases of domestic violence, family law, and immigration law. By representing persons who would otherwise proceed pro se, FALC students gain hands-on experience while learning the dynamics of domestic violence and poverty. FALC students help their clients address immediate safety needs and assert their legal rights by obtaining emergency temporary and civil protection orders (CPO). Students also represent clients in longer-term litigation arising from their abusive family situations, including resolving complex divorce, legal separation, property and debt distribution, child custody, child visitation, and child support matters. Additionally, students are able to respond to the unique needs of immigrant victims of domestic violence, helping them to attain legal status and employment authorization through VAWA self-petitions, battered spouse waivers, and U visa applications. In addition to their caseload and a weekly seminar, students participate in various community education projects and engage in policy work designed to address systemic social problems associated with domestic violence.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic:  The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) provides direct representation to low income taxpayers in controversies with the IRS dealing with such issues as return filing, IRS correspondence examinations and IRS face-to-face examinations, IRS collections, and appeals to the IRS. The LITC also assists taxpayers with judicial review before the United States Tax Court, as necessary.

Veterans Advocacy and Estate Planning Clinic:  (taught in the evening and ideal for part-time students) will advocate for the rights of those who have served our country in the armed forces and have been denied veterans’ benefits. In addition, students will provide estate-planning services to both veterans and non-veterans alike. Student attorneys will draft wills, trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney.

Law Students in Court Clinic:  Students defend indigent adults charged with misdemeanors and juveniles charged with any offense except a few of the most serious felonies.

Criminal Prosecution Clinic:  The Criminal Prosecution Clinic is a four-credit, one-semester course that provides second and third year students with intensive exposure to criminal prosecution practice through a combination of actual trial practice and classroom work. Students are assigned to work in the State's Attorney's Office of Montgomery County in Maryland, where they prosecute criminal cases in the circuit and district courts.

The Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Clinic: The Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Clinic (IRAC) will offer students the opportunity to advocate for immigrants and refugees in courts, administrative proceedings, and policy forums. Students will assist low-income clients living in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland who have experienced political persecution, violence, or humanitarian crisis in their home countries. IRAC will represent clients with matters such as asylum, special immigrant visas for unaccompanied minors, labor trafficking, and naturalization. In addition, students may assist clients on issues that impact or relate to the client’s immigration status such as child support, public benefits, or employment concerns. IRAC clients will include adults as well as unaccompanied minors.



Our field placement programs include Legal Externships: Becoming a Lawyer and Legal Externships: Supervised Fieldwork, which are general placement externship programs with either a seminar (Becoming a Lawyer) or a tutorial (Supervised Fieldwork) component. Through the externship program, students may gain practical legal experience in a wide variety of public interest settings, including the federal government, state, local, and federal judiciaries, public defenders' and district attorneys' offices, the federal legislature, and area legal services and nonprofit organizations.


Classes with a Public Service Component

In addition to its clinics, CUA Law perennially offers a range of courses with a public service component. Examples include: Elder Law Seminar; Gender, Law & Policy; Human Trafficking Seminar; Juvenile Law; Labor Relations in the Public Sector; National Security Law and Policy Seminar; Natural Resources Law; Not for Profit Organization; Public International Law; Spanish for Lawyers.


Public Interest Journals

CUA Law's two student-edited publications,  Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology and the Catholic University Law Review  include public policy/interest matters among the issues of concern they address.


PI Career Support Center

The Office of Career and Professional Development promotes a range of opportunities for students interested in pursuing a public interest path, including: individual counseling, mock interviews, career fairs, postgraduate fellowship counseling, and programming covering topics such as public interest/service careers, funding for summer public interest work, and fellowships.


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

There is no loan repayment assistance program.


Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

CUA Law graduates have secured postgrad legal fellowships in recent years through the Equal Justice Works Fellowship Program and the Borchard Foundation.


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

First-year students are invited to apply for the $10,000 O'Brien Scholarship. The recipient is selected based on essays submitted to the Office of Financial Aid.


Graduate Student Funded


Other Funding Sources:


Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Charles and Louise O'Brien Fellowships In 1995, Father Raymond O'Brien, a professor at the law school, created a fellowship in memory of his grandparents Charles and Louise O'Brien. The fellowship may be used for summer work at a public interest organization. The Fellows are chosen from essays submitted by eligible students describing their summer placement in the context of the interaction between their religious perspective and their legal careers. Up to three fellowships are awarded annually, with award amounts ranging from $4,500 to $6,000, depending on funding levels.

Students for Public Interest Law (SPIL) Stipends Students for Public Interest Law (SPIL) spends the academic year raising money to fund stipends for law students who obtain summer employment at public interest organizations. The number of stipends awarded depends upon the fundraising efforts of student volunteers and donations from local businesses and law firms. SPIL's primary fundraising source is its auction held every spring semester. Each stipend is awarded in the amount of $3,500.

Eric Weissman Endowed Scholarship Fund The Weissman family established the Eric D. Weissman Memorial Scholarship in order to specially honor one student who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to public interest law. This scholarship is for $3,500, and the recipient is selected at the same time as the SPIL stipend recipients.

Plato Papps Labor Law Scholarship This program provides a $4,000 stipend for an internship in labor law during the summer following the first year of legal study. Applications are distributed by the CUA Law faculty directly to students shortly after Spring Break. Papps Fellows are expected to work at their assigned internship for ten weeks.


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:


Squire Patton Boggs LLP Public Policy Fellowship Using the attorney's fees earned from a successful pro bono case won by John Oberdorfer, Patton Boggs, LLP established the Patton Boggs Foundation to commemorate the retirement of founding partner James R. Patton, Jr. The Foundation annually grants Public Policy Fellowships to exceptional law students (one of whom is a CUA student) who spend their summers working on public policy matters for a non-profit institution or a government agency. The summer position need not be in the Washington, D.C., area. The stipend is $5,000.



Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs


Student Public Interest Groups

Delta Theta Phi - The Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity International was founded in 1900. Since its inception, Delta Theta Phi has produced a number of distinguished members, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick. The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law is the home of Delta Theta Phi's Hughes senate. The Hughes senate focuses on three major goals for its members: professional development, scholastic achievement, and community service.

Habitat for Humanity - The CUA Law chapter of Habitat for Humanity is affiliated with the international Habitat for Humanity organization, which is a nonprofit, ecumenical-Christian housing ministry. The law school chapter seeks to further the international organization's goals of eliminating poverty housing and homelessness from the world and making decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. To accomplish these goals, the chapter invites law students and faculty members to participate in and fundraise for organized house builds in partnership with families in need.

Students for Public Interest Law - Students for Public Interest Law (SPIL) puts on numerous events and community service/pro bono activities aimed at providing information about and experience in public interest law. SPIL also hosts numerous fundraisers throughout the year to provide summer stipends to students working in the public interest arena. The biggest event is the Annual SPIL Auction, which raises over $30,000 each year for summer stipends.